Can I tell my staff to work an extra 2 hours a day in order to cover the extra demand over the Christmas season?

How you cope with extra demand on your business at busy times is governed by your employees’ contracts of employment. Unfortunately you cannot expect that your staff will work the extra hours just because you need them to.

First, have a look in the contracts at the section detailing hours of work. It may include some provisions about overtime which you may be able to rely upon to get your staff to work the extra hours. A flexible clause which reads “You may be required to work additional hours at busy times to copy with demand” will provide you with general flexibility to require that your staff work the extra 2 hours per day.

When your staff sign their agreement to their contracts of employment, they are agreeing to the terms within it and therefore, if the above clause is included, they have agreed to work extra hours as required. You should tell them that overtime is available and that an overtime rota must be filled. Providing a small premium on pay for working the extra hours may help.

If there is no provision within the contract for overtime or additional hours, then you have less flexibility. Forcing staff to work in accordance with terms that are not within their contract may cause you problems, and claims of breach of contract.

Contracts are legally binding documents and changes to contractual terms must be agreed by both parties. They should not be imposed unilaterally.

If you want to amend the terms relating to hours of work where the contract does not provide you with an flexibility to do so, you will need to obtain the individual agreement of your staff before you can require them to work the extra hours. You’ll need to speak to them, explain the changes you want to make and ensure that they have given express agreement. It is best to confirm the agreement in writing.

You should also confirm that the change is temporary, and with effect from a particular date, will revert back to normal.

To give yourself the flexibility you need to cover this situation, you should ensure that you include an overtime provision within all contracts for new staff, and seek to obtain agreement from your existing staff that the flexibility of working hours clause can be incorporated into theirs.

If you need any further information regarding contracts of employment, please call our Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.